VS. NATIONAL UNDER-17 TEAM
L.C. WALKER ARENA, MUSKEGON, MICH.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2012
The Jim McKenzie era begins tonight as the Muskegon Lumberjacks start a series of three straight games against the U.S. National Under-17 Team. The 15-year NHL veteran and Stanley Cup champion will make his debut behind the bench exactly one week after being named the USHL franchise’s second Head Coach. The Jacks are 0-3 on their current five-game homestand, but with a win tonight they can push to get back into postseason contention. Muskegon enters the evening 13 points behind the National Team for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot with 33 games to go in the regular season.
Under interim Head Coach and former Muskegon Fury forward Dave Noel-Bernier, the Lumberjacks (9-16-2, 20 points / 7th in East) played spirited hockey last weekend, but dropped both games to extend their season-long losing streak to four. Against Green Bay last Saturday, Rudy Sulmonte (G, A) and Tyler Heinonen (2 A) each had two points, helping the Jacks to a 3-2 lead midway through the game. But the league-best Gamblers pushed back with four straight goals to eventually earn a 6-4 win at L.C. Walker Arena.
Getting back to USHL play after the World Under-17 challenge, the younger version of the National Team Development Program (15-11-1, 33 points / T-5th in East) traveled to Youngstown last weekend and claimed two wins at the Covelli Centre. The twinbill was capped off by an eventful 6-4 victory last Saturday, as the Nationals sprinted to a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes in a penalty-filled night. The U-17s converted three times on eight power play chances, including Anthony Louis’ game winner, his ninth of the season in 15 USHL games.
- The addition of Ron Mason to the Lumberjacks’ hockey operations staff brings an NCAA counterbalance to McKenzie’s NHL credentials. The winningest coach in men’s college hockey history, Mason is best known for his 23-year stint at Michigan State, where his teams qualified for the NCAA tournament 21 times and won a national title in 1986. He is the grandfather of Jacks defenseman Travis Walsh, who is committed to MSU.
- Ontario-born forward and University of Maine recruit Ryan Lomberg has quietly put together a four-game point streak, the team’s second-longest of the season. Lomberg scored in two straight mid-December games before missing four in a row due to injury, but the rookie picked up where he left off last weekend, earning an assist Friday and his fifth goal Saturday. Lomberg’s 14 points put him third on the Lumberjacks.
- Although Muskegon is in the midst of a six-game winless streak (0-4-2), the offense woke up last weekend with seven combined goals against Des Moines and Green Bay. That’s the most the Jacks have scored in back-to-back games since Dec. 2-3, when they split a pair with Youngtown at L.C. Walker Arena.
- The NTDP is a single entity in the USHL standings, but it consists of two different squads. The Lumberjacks fell 3-2 to the Under-18 team Dec. 17 in Ann Arbor, but this will be Muskegon’s first crack at the Under-17s, who have an 8-6-2 record in USHL play after sweeping Youngstown in a pair of games last weekend.
- The U-17s have been busy, playing 30 games so far this season and posting an 18-9-3 record overall including international competitions. The National Team won the Four Nations Cup in November, going 4-0-0 along the way, but they fell to Russia in the final of the World Under-17 Challenge Jan. 4.
- J.T. Compher leads the U-17s with 33 points (14 G, 19 A) in 30 games, with Tyler Motte close behind at 28 points; Motte paces the way in USHL play, however, with 17 points, four more than Compher. Tyler Kelleher is on a three-game point streak and goaltender Hunter Miska has won his last three USHL starts.
UPCOMING HOME GAMES
TONIGHT vs. U.S. NATIONAL TEAM at 7:15 p.m. – Dollar Beer & Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell / Offer applies from 6-8 p.m.
Saturday, January 21 vs. U.S. NATIONAL TEAM at 7:15 p.m. – Jacks Fight Cancer Night / Visit muskegonlumberjacks.com to find out how to participate as the Lumberjacks team with Mercy Health and the Johnson Family Cancer Center.
**Tuesday, January 24 - USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game featuring the 40 best USHL prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft! Call 724-JACK for tickets and information.
Saturday, January 28 vs. INDIANA at 7:15 p.m. – Bonus Hockey! / A scheduling conflict in Indiana has moved this game to Muskegon; it was originally scheduled as a road contest.
Sunday, January 29 vs. DUBUQUE at 5:15 p.m. – It’s the final Sunday home game of the regular season as the Clark Cup champions come to town! Please note special start time.
FOLLOW THE JACKS ALL SEASON
92.5 FM The Outlaw is the exclusive radio home of your Muskegon Lumberjacks! Listen over the air or check out the action streaming online at 925fmtheoutlaw.com as Voice of the Jacks Matt Gajtka has the play-by-play. The USHL is also partnering with FastHockey.com to provide video coverage of all league games this season; go to ushl.fasthockey.com to sign up and watch!
JackSixty presented by Cinema Carousel is a weekly hour-long talk show devoted to your Muskegon Lumberjacks every Tuesday night from 6-7 p.m. at Hennessy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. Located at the corner of Jefferson and Clay Streets in the heart of Muskegon, Hennessy’s plays host as Gajtka talks hockey with Lumberjacks coaches, players and other featured guests on 98.3 FM WLCS. There will be no show next week due to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, but JackSixty will return Tuesday, Jan. 31!
THE SOCIAL NETWORKS
Never go hungry for Jacks news: “Like” the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Facebook and follow “@MuskegonJacks” on Twitter to stay plugged into the Jacks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, find the Jacks’ exclusive YouTube channel at youtube.com/MuskegonJacks!